Preacher makes some promises this week: We don’t have to be who we were. Good can win out over bad. Komodo dragons are tasty. But “South Will Rise Again” (and lookee there, another promise!) doesn’t offer much evidence that those promises can actually be kept.
We open in Ratwater, where the town apothecary tells the cowboy from episode 2 that the medicine his daughter needs won’t be ready until the next day. So the bearded stranger heads to the local saloon/brothel/hotel, which is full of every Old West cliché you can shake a set of spurs at.
The establishment’s proprietor asks if the cowboy wants “a whore room or sleep room.” (The other option is a free chair that come with a $5 bottle of whiskey, for you bargain shoppers.) As the cowboy looks around his home for the night, he stumbles across a group of men raping a woman (unconscious? dead?) as her child watches. The next day, he leaves with his medicine, riding past a hanging tree full of corpses. But when a child in a covered wagon greets him, cheerfully calling that his family’s on the way to Ratwater, the cowboy only hesitates a moment before delaying his return to his family and galloping toward town.
He arrives in time to interrupt the boy’s family selling scalps to the Ratwaterans, and he gets the old-timey tar kicked out of him for his trouble. Worse, he’s confronted by a former Union soldier, who remembers the cowboy fighting for the Confederacy at Gettysburg.
“I ain’t never seen a man more in love with killing than you,” the northerner says before shooting the cowboy’s horse dead. His attempt at doing good thwarted, the cowboy plods home on foot, where he finds crows pecking at the corpses of his wife and daughter. It’s not clear how they died, but what is clear is the cowboy straps on his gun belt. Nonreaders of the comics, aren’t you anxious to see how this storyline interacts with our present-day characters? And comic readers, aren’t you scared about how this storyline will be changed?
In present-day Annville, Jesse’s discussing church business at the diner with Emily, before getting drawn into a group of clean-cut youth who ask for his help ranking the gospels, Buzzfeed-style. (“Four Gospels Only ’90s Kids Will Love!”) When Emily tells him this behavior isn’t like him, he says it’s not him. It’s God. Incidentally, one of the youth has an unforgivable hipster mustache, and if Jesse really wanted to do God’s work, he should use the Word to get that dude to shave.
At Tulip’s house, Cassidy does some great eyebrow work when he wakes up to find her standing over him, demanding to know more about his vampiric condition, which leads to this fantastic exchange:
“Turn into a bat?”
“Sleep in a coffin?”
“Not if I can help it.”
“Afraid of the cross?”
“It’s a 2,000-year-old symbol of hypocrisy, slavery, and oppression. But it won’t burn me face off.”
Cass eventually cops that the sun bothers him, but SPF helps. Also, he prefers single malt to human blood. Cool customer Tulip takes it all in, denying his request to help him score some opiates, while Cassidy’s all Irish charm, telling her he’s fallen for her. She warns him she’s got a boyfriend; she’s just waiting for him to ditch his job so they can take revenge on someone who screwed them over. (Cue flashback to Carlos leaving them behind on that ill-fated job.)
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“We lost everything because of him. Took two years to track him down. Now I have, now I’ve found him, all’s that’s left to do is go over there and get him, tie him to a table, cut his freakin’ balls off and, over and over, stab him in the face with a screwdriver.”
“And your boyfriend said no to this?” Cass asks. But then he gets serious, telling her that her boyfriend might not be the man she thinks he is — obviously unaware the boyfriend in question is his new preacher pal.
NEXT: A smug Jesse uses his power to help Eugene
Tulip’s not ready to accept this, so she tracks Emily down to ask for Jesse’s whereabouts. Emily’s in the least-dignified position ever (on toilet, pants around ankles), and neither woman is happy: Tulip, for having to track down the love of her life with this mousy woman’s help; Emily, because damn, a woman’s bathroom should be a safe space, you know? Plus, Tulip’s obvious competition for the affections of the wild-haired man of God.
So Tulip arrives at the diner, where parishioners are waiting for Jesse’s advice. He’s using the Word to tell a man to be patient with his mother-in-law when Tulip jumps the line to ask what she should do about her fondness for bad boys. Bad boys like the one who shot a Komodo dragon in the face when the potential buyer wouldn’t stop eyeing her.
“They were going to eat that dragon anyways,” Jesse says. “They were setting up a barbeque spit.”
Tulip’s furious Jesse’s denying who he is, but Jesse stays calm. He tells Tulip he’s changed, and so can she. “We don’t have to be what we’ve been. You can be good. That’s what we want, right? We all want to be good.”
Tulip’s not pleased, but a waitress interrupts this brewing argument to tell Jesse that “something” outside wants to talk to him. It’s Eugene, who’s had a rough couple of days. Unknown parties broke into his house and painted “Finish the job” on a wall, with a helpful arrow pointing to a shotgun. Then his father made it clear he agrees with the vandals’ suggestion. It hurts to watch the guarded optimism drain from Eugene’s eyes, and he tells Jesse he’s not complaining that everyone in town hates him. He knows it’s his fault, but he doesn’t want his dad to suffer for his sins.
Jesse decides to fix this by driving Eugene to Tracy Loach’s house. But when Tracy’s mother sees Eugene in the truck, she goes after him with a baseball bat, screaming that he’s a murderer. Jesse Words her to drop the bat and step away from the truck, then Words her to forgive Eugene. She immediately extends her arms in a hug as the gathered crowd looks on in surprise — and no one more so than Eugene.
In the truck afterward, Eugene’s confused about what just happened, and Jesse smugly tells him he took care of his dad’s problem. But come on, it’s not going to be that easy, Jesse. Then the preacher starts whistling, which seems like it’s rubbing salt into the wound for poor Eugene, who lacks the lips to do the same.
NEXT: Quincannon has weird ideas about serving the Lord
Now let’s check in on the Quincannon crew. Donnie’s languishing in bed, shamed into inaction by the multiple whuppings from Jesse. His wife tries to buck him up by telling him the South will rise again. He responds with a story about cattle accepting their fate in the kill-floor maze, and she in turn says she’ll bang Russell from accounting if her husband doesn’t pull it together. Her story’s more effective.
Donnie makes it into work, where he listens as Quincannon’s making amends with the mayor, testifying about how he found his way thanks to Jesse Custer’s preaching. And suddenly Donnie starts to put some things together, the strain of thinking showing on his face. You can almost see the light bulb go off over his head as he demands to know what the preacher said.
“He said to serve God,” Quincannon says. “Which I will, from this day on.”
Later that day, Donnie breaks down while having lunch with his wife. “Preacher’s got a power,” he says. “He made me do things.” He explains about the gun, the lustful bus driver, and Quincannon’s surprise conversion. “I was just a puppet, I was just a cow in a maze,” he says, and the more he tries to explain, the more upset he gets. “Please don’t screw Russell in accounting.” He cries on her shoulder, and she promises Custer will eventually get what he deserves.
Two others who want to help Jesse get what he deserves are Fiore and DeBlanc, the hard-to-kill, cowboy-hat-wearing Brits. They’re hiding out in their hotel room, where the mystic telephone just rings and rings as they try to get their stories straight for the folks upstairs. (A “slight massive security breach” is in their working draft.) They agree it’ll be the end of them both if they don’t handle it right. But when they finally go to answer the phone, the incessant ringing stops. This is a bad, bad sign, apparently, because they both stare in trepidation.
Tulip’s been doing some thinking of her own, and she’s decided to embrace bad. She grabs a mask and gun to steal a bottle of opioids from a drug store, which she hands over to Cassidy. Then they climb into her car and have deeply unsexy sex in the backseat. That’s one way to show Jesse who she really is, I guess.
Speaking of, Jesse’s still dispensing generic advice in the diner, using the Word to tell a man and woman looking for parenting advice to “use your best judgment.” Gee, thanks, Dr. Phil.
Then DeBlanc and Fiore roll into the diner. Jesse thinks they’re there “about Dallas,” but no. They tell him they’ve given his best buddy all the money Jesse demanded for drugs and prostitutes, and now they want to make the trade for what’s inside of him. Jesse’s confused, unaware Cass was “negotiating” for him and even more confused when DeBlanc and Fiore say they’re from heaven. “As in the sky above?”
Yep. They’ve been watching him use his new power, and now they want it back. Fiore pulls out the dented can in which it lives, but Jesse’s not buying what they’re selling, asking how God fits into a can of Old Timer Coffee.
Ah, but it’s not God inside of him, the heavenly ambassadors tell him. Jesse — and nonreaders of the comic — want to know what that power actually is, but no answers are forthcoming this week.
And we close the episode with Quincannon. He and the mayor greet three suits from Green Acres, the competing company Quincannon rejected last week. It seems his new outlook on life has changed his mind, and the Green Acres people are glad to hear he’s taking his company in a new direction.
Were your spidey senses tingling during this scene? If so, congratulations! You’re a consumer of modern entertainment! Because sure enough, Quincannon pulls out a shotgun and murders the crap out of the Green Acres people. “We grow or we die,” Quincannon explains to the horrified mayor.
Well, that’s an interesting way of serving God, who’s usually a big fan of the whole “thou shalt not kill” rule. But hey, I’m not the biblical scholar Odin Quincannon is.
- Tulip and Cass: Do you ship it?
- Between this episode and last week’s Game of Thrones, it’s been a bad eight days for our four-legged horse friends. Watch your backs, ponies of Equestria.
- So Eugene caused Tracy’s mysterious accident, then tried to kill himself, right?
- I love the name “Annville.” The town really does act as an anvil to its residents, weighing them down with regrets, grudges, and thwarted ambitions.
- Nice as it is to see him try to embrace the better angels of his nature, do we really want a good Jesse? Angry Jesse, morally conflicted Jesse, questioning Jesse — those are interesting versions of Jesse. I share Tulip’s frustration with his adherence to the path of righteousness (and he, no doubt, would be frustrated at my desire to see him embrace the bad). How about you?